Diploma Bill Takes Center Stage In House Education Committee Meeting Today

The diploma bill for students with severe disabilities is on the agenda for the Delaware House Education Committee today.  The bill caused a ruckus of sorts with State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Board of Education member Pat Heffernan, Robert Overmiller, and the Delaware Chamber of Commerce.

House Bill #287 is now HS1 for House Bill #287.  The new changes are as follows:

This Substitute Bill makes the following changes to House Bill No. 287: 1. It changes the name of the new diploma to a “Diploma of Alternate Achievement Standards” instead of a “Diploma of Modified Performance Standards.” 2. It adds a requirement that a student must be eligible to take a statewide alternate assessment to receive the new diploma. 3. The Act takes effect in the academic year after enactment.

But the spirit of the original bill is the same.

…provides the opportunity for schools to award students who meet the requirements of their Individualized Education Plans (“IEP”) a high school diploma which recognizes the accomplishment of having attained a level of performance that is modified from the State graduation requirements but aligned with their established goals and performance outcomes.

As much as those who oppose the bill talk about why they hate the bill, I still fail to understand their rationale.  This isn’t a business bill, this is a student bill.  I think it is very arrogant for big business to dare to intrude on legislation like this.  In my opinion, they have done enough “intruding” in public education to the detriment of students, teachers, and schools.  Most of our schools, teachers, and parents want this bill to pass.  To me, they are your key stakeholders, not the business community.

For Jaques, Heffernan, and Overmiller: two of you have family members with disabilities and one of you serves on the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC).  I am unable to fathom your opposition to this bill.  You are certainly entitled to your opinion.  But, to me, it is not a coincidence that you all opposed opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Which is a grueling task and a flawed test for any student, but especially for students with disabilities.  The majority of the GACEC supports the bill.

I anticipate a large crowd for this House Education Committee meeting.  It is being held in the Joint Finance Committee room, not the House Chamber.  It begins at 3:00pm.  If you support this bill, please come out and give public comment.

Other bills on the docket are House Bill #292, relating to services for students with Autism, and House Bill #282, which would allow extra funding for field trips in schools with high concentrations of students with poverty

Field Trip Funding Bill Would Give Relief To Low-Income Schools

Delaware State Representative Sean Matthews submitted House Bill #282 for pre-filing yesterday which would give $25 to each student for field trips in designated low-income schools across the state.

In order to support enrichment activities such as field trips for students at high-poverty schools, this bill would require the State to provide $25 per student to high poverty schools for the purpose of educational and enrichment field trips.
The bill is co-sponsored by State Senator Harris McDowell with additional sponsorship provided by Senators Brian Bushweller and David Sokola and State Reps. Paul Baumbach, Stephanie Bolden, Helene Keeley, and Trey Paradee.
Matthews sent a note to his colleagues in the General Assembly in asking for sponsorship:

Much of what makes a student successful in school is the background knowledge and outside experiences that a student gets from going on trips. Students that go on trips to museums, historical sites and parks are able to acquire knowledge and life experiences that help them do better in school. Field trips are predominately paid for by parents, so students from families of more financial means are typically able to go on more and better field trips. 

This bill will allow schools with a 50% or greater low-income student population to receive financial support to plan and run educational field trips. The identified schools (see list below…schools are in all 3 counties) would get $25/student and could use that money to plan field trip/s. The money could be combined with private funding (parents, PTA, grants, etc.) in any manner the school sees fit to maximize its use.  Please note that most schools already have policies and procedures to ensure that field trips are educational in nature. 

We’ve spent years trying to “fix” struggling schools with programs and money solely within the four walls of a school. Let’s try something new and get students from schools with large low-income populations out of the building on high quality field trips. I believe we will see real and lasting results. Note: The approximate cost to fund this bill Statewide based on the most recent data on low-income students, is $500,000.

Since this bill comes with a fiscal note, I would expect some resistance to it, especially coming from the Republican side.  As I see no sponsorship from either the Senate or House Republicans, it is hard to tell what will happen with this.  With that being said, I strongly support this bill.  It is a definitive and urgent need for high-need students.  And yes, low-income and poverty is very much a high need.  We have a large amount of students this would benefit which could give tangible and immediate results in their education.  Frankly, I’m disappointed no Republicans signed on as some of them represent districts where some of the below schools reside in.  I can think of a lot of wasteful spending in this state and this would NOT be one of them!

This is not limited to traditional school districts but also charter schools that qualify.  Please support this legislation!

The list of schools:

Elementary Schools: East Dover, South Dover, Booker T. Washington, Fairview, Towne Point, Lake Forest, North Laurel, Dunbar, Banneker, Mispillion, Blades, Frederick Douglas, Harlan, Highlands, Lewis Dual Language, Shortlidge, Baltz, Richardson Park, Mote, Warner, Brookside, Oberle, Bancroft, Elbert-Palmer, Pulaski, Stubbs, Eisenberg, Academy of Dover, East Side Charter, Thomas Edison Charter, Charter School of New Castle, Kuumba Academy, and Academia Antonia Alonso.

Middle Schools: Central Middle, Skyline, Stanton, Bayard, and McCullough

High Schools: Pyle Academy & Great Oaks

ILC Schools: Kent Elementary ILC & Kent County Alternative

Special Schools: First State School, Douglass School, & Carver Center

To read the full bill, please see below: